Intersections – Changing My Face
By Nicki Salcedo
I have two noticeable scars on my face. Both occurred when I was little, about five. One looks like a birthmark. The other is clearly a small slash where I got half a dozen stitches. Because I’ve had the scars most of my life, I don’t see them when I look at my face.
From an equally young age, well-intentioned people advised me that I could fix my scars when I got older. “When you get to be 18, you can have a little surgery to fix that.” I’ve been thinking about plastic surgery since I was five years old.
And yet when people have asked me about my scars over the years, I’m always confused. “What scars?” I ask. Some people are born to focus on their imperfections. They can’t help it. Others can’t see their own scars and blemishes. I’m the latter. By the time I turned 18 years old, I knew I would not have plastic surgery on my scars.
I had my first professional photos taken a few years ago. The photographer had photoshopped away my two scars. I asked her to put them back. It didn’t look like my face without the scars. I never see my scars, but without them I don’t look like myself. I don’t need perfection. Or maybe I do.
What is perfection? People are mad at Renee Zellweger for altering her face. I don’t feel bad for celebrities. Naked pictures leaked on to the internet. Accusations of plastic surgery. Celebrities live a life of scrutiny, but so do we regular people. Regular women have to deal with face-shaming daily. At least celebrities get paid for it.
How is makeup less offensive than plastic surgery? I detest mascara and lipstick. I wear mascara grudgingly because I have gray eyelashes. I recently liberated my mouth from lipstick. I hate lipstick because it tastes gross. Why must I wear makeup on my mouth? That’s my pie hole. I eat food there. Makeup, please stay away from my mouth. I wear simple lip balm. That’s it. I save lip gloss for my MILFy days. Not lipstick. Ever again.
On one of those days that required makeup, my boss told me I looked beautiful and called out to the rest of the office, “Come see Nicki’s face!” No really, she said this. My co-workers gathered round to see my supermodel face. That was when I realized I normally look like Nanny McPhee. I even have the moles. On any normal day you can see my scars, bumps, and wrinkles.
By the time I had kids, I began to dream about plastic surgery again, specifically a tummy tuck. I’m so skinny, you know all that extra belly skin. I want it gone. I’m not ashamed to say I want a little nip and tuck.
I know people who have had tummy tucks and lifts and reductions. You can’t tell me these are bad things. They have improved the lives of people I know. I’ve never walked around with DD cups so I can’t imagine that life. When my friend decided to show me her post reduction surgery results, I was surprised. She was physically and mentally lighter. I just wished she had given me a little warning. I love breasts as much as the next woman, but I’m a prude. I need at least a three minute warning before you flash me the twins.
These days, my face offers me different woes. Adult acne. Each zit means a new scar or a blemish as the cosmetic people like to say. No one told my life would be filled with scars and concealer and stitches and dreams of plastic surgery.
I wrote an entire novel about a woman with scars on her face, and I can’t tell you how many readers asked me why she didn’t just get plastic surgery. Are we for plastic surgery or against it? Is plastic surgery bad because we refuse to age gracefully and embrace our wrinkles and saggy bits? Everyone seems to like me better when I hide the wrinkles, suck in the jiggly parts, and push up the saggy parts. “Come see!” Are you mad at the actress for having plastic surgery? Or are you jealous because she did it?
I’ve never worried about the shape of my eyes or nose. I’ve never worried about my scars old and new. I’m not one to judge those who do the surgery and those who don’t. Who knows what will happen to me when I’m fabulously rich. And bored. Some of us are going to walk around with scars for the rest of our lives. Some of us are going to use our bodies like canvases. We are going to alter ourselves. Good thing I will never be rich or bored. My face is going to change no matter what I do.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.